What follows is an account of growing up on “Pea Ridge,” near “Old” Eddyville, Kentucky, by my mother, Mary Lou (Hammons) Kingston. The original town of Eddyville is gone now–a victim of the Army Corps of Engineers and the newly formed Lake Barkley in the 1960’s. Many refer to it now as “Old” Eddyville, though it is no longer there. The new town of Eddyville was created a few miles away, and natives still refer to it as “New” Eddyville.
How this story came about: In the 1970’s my grandmother (Mary Lou’s mother), Esther Hammons, asked me to record her life story. I got busy with this and that and didn’t do it, and I’ve always regretted it. But I was determined that I would get my own mother and father’s stories down while they were still willing to do so. And that I have done. I gave them a tape recorder and cassettes and let them record their memories at their leisure.
So, for Mother’s Day 2017 here is an account from a tape my mother (Mary Lou Hammons Kingston) made for me some years back. It recounts her early years on Pea Ridge. She was born in the heart of the Great Depression, and life was difficult. I did the best I could with spelling people’s names, but you can pretty much bet there are mistakes. The words and phrases are Mom’s. I edited only for clarity. –Wade
Growing Up on Pea Ridge and Old Eddyville
–by Mary Lou Hammons Kingston
“I was born on Pea Ridge, Kentucky, outside of Old Eddyville on the tenth month, the 26th day of 1935. My sister told me that it was a cold afternoon and daddy told her to take the five boys and go around to a uncle’s house and stay there until he come and got them. My sister said that she knew what was going on and she said that my mother really had a hard time and that the doctor got on to my dad and told him that there was to not be any more children, because I think momma almost died and she did have a sister that lived around the road that died from childbirth. And from there I can remember uhh…I remember one day some women coming to our house. I was real little. And they said …they told momma that they wanted to put me in the cradle row at church and momma said “okay” and I remember they fixed up some kind of paper. I think it’s some kind of certificate and it stayed over at the house for ever so long.
Then I remembered, uh, going to school…starting my first day of school and I remember uh…we’d always had outside toilets everywhere I went and the kinfolks and all and I remember going to school and I told the teacher I wanted to go to the bathroom and somebody told me where the bathroom was and there was all them porcelain potties and I didn’t know what they was for. So I came back out of the bathroom and when another girl went in about my size and I seen her scoot up on one and use it, well then I scooted up on one and used it. I knew what it was for then. (laughs)
I remember when I was real little, our well would go dry, and momma would say, “All of you gitcha a bucket now, we’ve got to go get water.” And we would walk up behind Dolly and Russell Robertson’s house and we would go across the field and down this hill and it was Horace Hester’s pump and well and he didn’t care for us getting water there. And we’d all fill our…momma would give us a bucket according to our size. And we’d have to watch out…we was afraid of the bulls and cattle in the field and we’d have to work our way around them. I don’t know if they would hurt you or if we just thought that. And we’d get that water and walk back and we was tickled to death when momma would say we had to go get water, ‘cause we loved that walk; I’ve always loved walking.
And then they would watch…momma and daddy would watch until the berries started turning black and it would always be in July and they’d tell us to get our buckets, and they’d fix us buckets, and they’d tell us to get our buckets and go get ready because we were going to pick berries, and oh that would tickle us to death. We’d go in fields where there was cattle and always daddy telling us to look out for the black snakes and the bulls and the cattle that would hurt you, and we’s always having to go behind things to pick the berries. And I remember when we’d come home, momma would wash these berries and start cookin’ ‘em and she had a big old aluminum dish pan, oh, and the smell in the house, of course the old house would be so hot, you’d have the back door open and all the windows up… but it would make it hot in there, but the smell of those berries cooking was just wonderful…such a good smell, I can still smell it even today.
And I can remember…and also, I started in to church I guess when I started to school and I remember they would have bible school and it was just wonderful. And we would go to school for five days and on the fifth day they would take us to Kuttawa Springs, and they’d have a big picnic and I especially remember the pimento cheese, how good it was. And uh, I always went to church every Sunday, Sunday night and Wednesday night, and uh, just kept, and the Robertson girls would go too…Dolly and Janie and Ocie and Joann, they’d go to church…the same church and we’d all walk and have a big time. Janice Carol Marshal started going. Pat Choate would go and we’d all walk together. Sometimes we’d fuss and fight and sometimes we’d pair off and be mad at the others. And sometimes we’d all be mad at one and they would walk by their selves.
And I remember too, Daddy and Momma always getting’ enough money for me on Saturday evening for me to go to the movies, down in Old Eddyville. And watching these movies was wonderful. And I can remember when…oh…the one, one movie I remember was “Meet Me in St. Louis” and I really liked that one. All I could remember was the name and here lately I got to see that, that movie, but I couldn’t remember until I saw it here lately. And too, oh, walking back and forth from school…things had happened for me, good things. I’d be thinking about a ice cream cone and wouldn’t have any money and look down and there would be a dime on the ground. Several times I’ve found dimes, nickels…it just always seemed like there was always a way for me…always food and always a way for me, which I least expected it would come from somewhere, for clothes, for my schooling and everything.
And uh…let’s see, I had lots of friends, some of them was boys and girls. Sometimes all of us would just walk in a crowd and it wasn’t like today…sometimes it would just be a big crowd of us, and it wasn’t no boyfriends and girlfriends…it was just…just all of us having a big time and walking and playing together.
Sometimes after a rain different ones would get together and we’d walk in the puddles in things up and down in the gravel in the summer, we thought that was something. And in the winter we’d get out and make snowmen and have snowball fights and just do fun things. My oldest brother, Louie, had a buggy and it was black…black seat and a black top, and we slipped that buggy out and the boys pulled it and we rode in it and we went all the way around the road and I don’t know why momma and daddy didn’t catch us, but if we had went down that Pea Ridge hill I don’t know if anything would a happened or not, as steep as it was, but they had sense enough not to go down it. And I can remember them being a horse, pulling us, pulling that buggy and I don’t know how they ever did it, but they did it.
I remember whenever in the fall momma would say, and we’d go get hickory nuts for the winter, cause she put, she made that old fudge in the skillet and put hickory nuts in it, and it was really good to us kids because we didn’t have all that much. And I remember, too, that she’d buy molasses and she’d cook them in a skillet and we would put butter on our hands and pull, after it got to a certain consistantly…however you say it… we would pull that candy and it would get hard and then you could break the candy and eat it or suck it like a peppermint or something. I remember the day, I guess I was around six years old and Maggie and Anna May was at mammy and pappy’s and they sent me to the post office to get the mail, and my uncle Howard and uncle Johnny and uncle Boyce was in service. And my grandmother hadn’t heard from my uncle Johnny in Germany in a while and she’d been worried. My grandmother was in bed sick and we brought the letter in and one of them read it to her, and whenever, after they read that letter it was peculiar, she just smiled and went to sleep and went to be with the Lord.
Maggie told me, said, run home Mary Lou and get Momma and they started getting all the family and calling them in. We sure did love our grandmother. And I remember that she lived in a little white house at the time down there, down below Pea Ridge hill, the little house is still there. And she was so clean and neat, and I remember that she would keep milk and let it clabber and she would make these biscuits…I can still taste those biscuits to this day, but I’ve never seen anybody that could make those biscuits. They was light brown on the top and bottom too–and they had a taste, a taste you just won’t find these days. And I remember that before that she lived up the holler, up past this place, and we would go up that holler where she lived…she lived in a nice house up there and I liked it.
And she would, she had this trail out back and she had her chickens—the bathroom, the outside toilet was up there, and she had chickens out there and she’d go out there to feed her chickens. Well, she had a gold twenty-dollar piece and some more coins, and she had them tied up in a handkerchief and she lost them and everybody looked and looked, and they looked for years and never did find that handkerchief and coins, and I’ve often wondered if they are still up in there. And after she passed away my granddaddy and my aunt, Annie May and Johnny and Howard and them moved to a different place, over closer out to the schoolhouse. It was in front of the apartments where old Dr. Mosely lived…they moved there by some Boyds and by Miss Kitty LeFan. And Miss Kitty LeFan worked in the school cafeteria and she was really a good cook, and she made that good chili that I liked. And I remember in the fall of the year too we’d go get those hickory nuts, we’d pick up those hickory nuts, and also we’d pick up apples too. We knew where the apple trees was. And I remember one time I went with Momma to pick up apples, and we went way down in these fields. It belonged to a Boyd, she was a widow then, Marie Boyd they called her and this land belonged to her and we went down in there to pick up apples. And there was a huge thorn tree there, thorns were about six inches. Well, the kind of shoes I wore must have been sandals and socks because I stuck one of them way up in my foot, and had to come home and she took me down to Dr. Mosely’s (old Dr. Mosely) and they got it out and gave me a shot and everybody made a big deal out of it and I might of got a nickel or a candy bar out of it, and I remember that well.
I remember too, I got me a dog, a little old brown dog. Oh I loved that little dog. And Daddy said we’d take him possum hunting one night and see what he does. So one night it got dark and me and Momma and Daddy went over in the woods and the little old dog treed a possum and Daddy shined a light up in there—and Daddy had a carbide light you put carbide down in it, and it had a round tin thing and you could fasten it up on your cap and it was what the miners used down in the coal mines—that’s what my brothers and Daddy always went hunting at night with. And he treed one, a possum and daddy said, “There it is, up in there.” And then we walked and come on back home that night. Later on, I don’t know how long it was, if it was a year or how long, but the little dog come up and been in a fight or somebody had hurt it or something and all of its head just about was off, and daddy had to get rid of him, and that was a hard thing to go through.
And then I had, Maggie had a big old black cat—of course she went off to Princeton and worked at the shirt factory and stayed up there—and I remember when she would come home she would bring me and Rabbit (her brother, Bedford’s nickname) and George kisses from the five and ten cent store. And boy that would tickle us to death cause things was scarce around our house like that. And I remember at Christmas her buying me these dolls and I had a great big doll that I kept, I had all my dolls and kept them for years, and whenever I started babysitting for the Hesters I gave them to their little girls, and I wished a lot of times that I had kept all of them. (And uh, oh, today is March 3, 04 and it’s cold today. Russell is laying down..he got sick on his own chili last night. I’m glad I didn’t make it.)
Now going back to Old Eddyville…
Back then water would come up out of the river and we called it “back water” and the stores would have to close and they would take their food and stuff mostly to their homes. I know
Mr. and Mrs. I.B. Hill did, and Momma would send me down to get groceries and one time she sent me down to get groceries and they lived down past the penitentiary in a house on the left and when I …I just had enough money to get what she said and when I was walking in the yard I looked down and found a quarter and I got me something so I got paid for going to the grocery store. And it wasn’t anything back then but paper bags..and gosh you would carry the things up the hill and I’d get tired and we had a what we called a concrete butment up Pea Ridge hill and we’d sit there and rest. If somebody didn’t have…maybe somebody’d be sitting there already when you got there and if it was somebody you knew you could sit down and usually you knew everybody and sit down and rest too because there was a big tree up above it and it was shady and cool there. And then, looking back too, Russell and Dolly Robertson would want me to stay all night with them. Russell would maybe be out late at work and Dolly didn’t like staying with herself and she’d fix me a big breakfast. And down at the foot of the hill they built this grocery store, one room, and I can see it today–you go up these steps and it had a little porch and it was just big enough in there. And she had her a little counter that she stood behind and she’d keep baloney and she had dranks and candy bars and cigarettes and stuff just something…and oh it was really something to get enough money to go down there to get something to eat, and I loved it.
And I loved Dolly and Russell…they was good people and they was really good to me. And she had a boy to come and stay with her from out in Texas or somewhere because she and Russell couldn’t have children, and his name was Jimmy Emhart and me and him was about six years old or something and me and him would play together for what years he was down here and would have the best time, and got along good, and his parents or somebody took him back and I always hated it so bad, and always wondered if some way I could look him up one day, but I don’t know what part of Texas or anything he would be in.
And also some of her people let her have a girl one time, and me and this girl would play together and this girl left and I never did know what happened to her.
There was a lot of things to do on Pea Ridge that didn’t cost any money. The kids rode stick horses and we fixed tin cans and put strings or wires up around them and we would walk on those tin cans and that was fun to do, if you could stay up on them. And down at the foot of the hill where someone had cleaned off some timber, up on the side of this hill we would go down there and on this grape vine we would swing out over it. And looking back if we had fell in that brush pile I don’t know if we would have been hurt or not. And it was a spring down in that holler too where we would go ever so often and get water and that was a fun thing to do just to go down that path and it was somewhere to go. And the neighbors up there, you’d go to their house and they wouldn’t be there and you’d go all through the house calling them because everybody left their doors unlocked. Nobody had to lock their doors or anything. And we all would meet or sit on the porch together, it was just somebody to talk to or be with all the time.
We had a uncle and aunt called Uncle Buddy and Aunt Nidey and they lived out on Princeton road and me and Momma would go out walking and go out there and see them and they would see us coming and Nidey she would fix a chicken and cook something real good and she always fried peach pies or apple pies; she was the sweetest old lady. And one time Willie and Maxine came in from Alton and had a car and they took us out there to stay all day, and Aunt Nidey and Uncle Buddy had this sidewalk that went all the way down, it was concrete, from their front porch..and went down, the steps went down on the highway and I went down…and I found a five-dollar bill and it had kindly been burnt on the corner, and I ran back and I was telling Momma and them about it. Well, Willie and Maxine had to go back (to Alton, Ill.) and they were running low on money and Willie borrowed that five dollars from me. And after they got back and Willie worked and got his check Willie sent the five dollars back to me. And I told Momma, I said, “Momma, we’ll take this and go get some paper and paper this front room.” So me and her went and took the money and got some paper and papered the front room and I think we had enough to get new sheets to go on the bed and we painted the top of the ceiling white and it made that front room look real good up in there, and me and her did that.
In the summer the house would be so hot after Momma cooking supper that we would all go outside at night and sit until it cooled down inside and the mosquitoes just about eat you up and they would take rags and put them in buckets and light them and try to smoke the mosquitoes away so we could sit out there, and we’d sit a lot of nights with lightning and just…dry lightning, it never would rain, lightning would just keep lighting up the sky…called it dry lightning or dry weather or something.
One time Maggie came back home to stay for a while and live back home and there was a group of boys they called CC boys…it was something like the soldiers nowadays, that they send over to replace or help out, and they gave Maggie this crow and she named him Amos and he could..he got where he could say “hello” and say a few words, taught him a few words and he could say those words and I remember him and he was such a good pet, and we had a squirrel too that was hers that was a good pet, while she was around.
Whenever it got cold enough in the fall, Daddy would have hogs to kill and Momma would put on a big old pot of white beans and she’d have a tea kettle and she’d take that tea kettle and fill it full of potatoes and when they got the hogs killed, and hung up…why, Daddy would cut out this long lean meat and he would have the boys to bring it to the house and Momma would wash it real good and salt and slice it in pieces and roll it in flour and she kept a big old bucket of lard, and reach down and get a big old thing of lard and put in there and she’d fry that and make some gravy with it and oh that was the best…and it was tenderloin or just lean meat and it was really good.
Why, when I got old enough I’d pick berries, and Daddy’d tell me to top ‘em real good. When it got to where I could I’d carry two gallons and the first person that would buy my berries would be Lillian. She lived at the foot of Pea Ridge hill…a black lady, and I really thought a lot of her. And the Robertson girls would get up early and go berry picking and they never did want me going with them, because they wanted all the berries theirself, but I always found a place and got my berries and take ‘em and sell em.
And Miss Ocie Prince would have a sale on underwear and things and put ‘em down and I’d take my money and buy things I needed for school, what money I did make off the berries. For Christmas, I got a little, I had a dollar and I sent off and I got some stars and some little icicles, and I don’t know what else it was…but I got a box full of these little things for a dollar and I put me a little Christmas tree in the house and hung all of them on it and when you’d turn the lamp out, why they would glow in the dark.
And I went to school and when I come back why my brother Dewey that drowned had thrown my Christmas tree out and I went out back and got it and brought it back in the house and put it back up. I think the reason he did this was because he knew Momma and Daddy didn’t have any money and I don’t know…it might have hurt Momma’s feelings. I didn’t think. I was always different from the rest of them. I liked the simple things…it didn’t have to have a bunch of presents under it, I just liked the tree and I had spent my dollar to get those ornaments to go on it.
I remember me and Momma used to walk from Old Kuttawa and go over to Maggie’s, she lived over there and she had Jeannie and Sonny, they was little and I would roll them in the stroller and Maggie would make divinity and she made it in a big old dish pan and she always made enough for us and for them. Me and Momma would take some home with us. And a lot of nights Maggie and Casey would come and see us and stay with us and then when a job offer came up for Casey in Alton, Illinois, and he went out there and we hated it so bad because they left. We missed the kids so bad. We was always tickled when they came in from Alton.
I don’t know how old I was, but Momma and Daddy got this call or I don’t know how it come and Louie had got shot in the service, in the foot and he was over at Camp Breckinridge close to Henderson, Ky. and Daddy had a brother, Edgar, that had a car and he come up there and told us he would take us to see him. I can’t remember who all went, I know Momma and Daddy and me and Maggie but I can’t remember if anybody else went or not. And I remember Uncle Edgar buying us these hamburgers and cold drinks and how good they was. I always remember the thing about the food. And we went over in the hospital and saw Louis and saw a lot of boys was in there. It was just a big row and they had little twin sized beds and all the soldiers in there and we got to talk to them, and Uncle Edgar took us on to the Evansville Zoo and that was the first time I ever went to the zoo and I really enjoyed that.
And the first time I went to Princeton I was little and my uncle Boyce Scott took me and Rabbit and George and he stopped out at R.M. Dunn’s and got us candy bars and cold drinks (RC’s) and I don’t know what we went to Princeton for but I remember seeing Princeton.
I remember when the war was over Pea Ridge (WWII) people beat tin cans and buckets and shook cow bells and blowed horns and did everything on Pea Ridge. Everybody was out in the road, marching up and down the road and down in Old Eddyville, the sirens was going off–and it wasn’t long after that ‘til Willie got to come home from Germany and Louie got to come home.
Willie lived down in old Eddyville, him and Maxine, and Louie and Imogene built a little old house up there by Momma and Daddy. I always remember Imogene worked at the hosiery mill and I don’t know where Louie worked but they always had money, both of them. They always bought cookies and candy and kept a lot of baloney and cold drinks and things and they’d feed us kids.
Then one day they all got job offers or Louie and Willie took off and got the jobs and the wives went later. I remember when I was in school these people, Spurly Faun and his wife had a grocery store over by the school and sometimes I’d have enough money and I wouldn’t eat in the lunch room and I’d go over there and eat. A lot of us kids would get tired of eating in the lunch room and we’d go over there when we could.
Tommy Williams had a little restaurant and he’d fry hot dogs and put salad dressing on them and put them on a bun and we’d buy them. It was just something different to do at school. I remember all of us would wear black and white loafers and everybody started getting neon strings to make their shoes look different, a bright green, bright pink. Some of the kids that had money, they got to buy jackets that color and that was the big thing in school. A lot of us girls would go outside and take peroxide and try to make streaks through our hair, just like kids do nowadays, just something to do.
Momma used to boil eggs at Easter and have us a Easter egg hunt, and I remember one Easter me and Rabbit had our buckets and there was some more there…and after Momma hid the eggs…she didn’t hide them all that much..we could find them pretty easy, but Big Richard Hammons was there and Willie was there and they run all the way to the foot of the hill, and by the time they got back to the top of the hill we already had all the eggs in our buckets and I never did know why they did that.
In the winter it would be real cold and after supper we would let the stove go out in the kitchen because Daddy had to cut the wood, had to get the wood all the time and wood wasn’t that plentiful, but we’d keep a fire down in the other room in the old stove, and we’d sit around the stove and Daddy had this big old long radio and I remember that it had this big battery that went on the back, a lot bigger than the batteries today, and it had a black cat leaping through the air and it had “Nine Lives” on it. We would listen to Amos and Andy and Baby Snooks, and The Lone Ranger and Tonto, and something called Inner Sectum and Red Skelton and Gracie and George Burns…that’s the ones I can remember right now. Then there was stories that was continued each week, you’d have to pick up where it left off each week and remember when it came on and be sure to turn it on.
One time somebody took some of us girls and we went out and in this big old pond, to be in the water, and it was so hot and I got an ear infection and Momma and them had to take me to the doctor and I had to lay in bed for I don’t know how long and oh, that hurt so bad, hurt when I chewed or anything. I don’t know why they let us go in that pond. I guess we didn’t have sense enough to know any better. But looking back—those old cows had been in that pond and I got my ear infected.
When Louie and Imogene got out in Alton, why Louie got to working and making pretty good money and he bought a nice car and come home and he told us to get ready and he picked up Martha Hammons and me and Momma and Martha and Louie and Imogene went up through Cadiz and down around the back side over at Kentucky Dam and everything…got to see Kentucky Dam Village and everything, I guess that was my first time to go. They was building this bridge down where Knoth’s is and it wasn’t completed so we had to take the long way around and we stopped and ate and had ice cream cones and just had a fun day.
After I got so big, why Momma would let me go down and play with Shirley Bell and they lived around the road and down the holler way down close to the railroad tracks. Shirley’s daddy had this great big horse called “Two-Tone” and she was beautiful, brown and white. She would get me on there and ride me and I never did learn to ride right. When we would go down the hill I would scoot way down on her and she’d get so mad. Then when we’d go up the hill, why… I’d almost pull her off and she’d have to get onto me. And when she’d trot I’d come way up off of the seat. I never did learn how to ride like you was supposed to. She put me on an old mule one day and rode and rode…she put a saddle on it…and we rode all over the farm and rode a long time and had a good time but the old mule went through a berry thicket and got stickers in its side and took off running and me holding on and hollering and she was right behind me and the horse and it run between two trees and she come up and pulled the stickers off it and then we went back to the barn and put the old mule up.
Then me and her sat up in the barn, it was this opening where they could throw the hay up in there, and it was open in the summer and the boys could just throw the hay up in there. Me and her would sit up there in that hay loft, and she would steal her brother’s cigarettes and we’d smoke cigarettes and then she’d hide them under that hay. Then she’d take me home on the horse and when she’d put me off of the horse, she would let that horse go and hit it on both sides with those reigns and that horse would just be wide open going down that, and Pea Ridge road then wasn’t nothing but gravel and she would really make that horse go. She could really ride.
One time Dolly Robinson came down to our house and had an epileptic fit. She was chewing her tongue and Daddy run and got a spoon and propped it in her mouth until she kind of come out of it. Daddy was always kind of helping people on Pea Ridge. I remember so many people that he helped. They said that when my cousin was little that he was about to die with the whooping cough. Daddy slipped around there with whiskey and sat up all night and every so often he would give that baby a little spoon of whiskey and when he did the baby would cough and he would spit up a bunch of stuff and everybody in the family thinks that he saved the baby’s life by doing that.
Back when I was little, also, the preachers would come in the summer and we had a place around there that we called the “Noble”. I don’t know why we called it that, but it was a level piece of ground. The preachers would put up these planks all the way around, and take bottles and put oil in them and make lamps some way and everyone would go sit on these planks and listen to the preacher. The preacher would preach and people would come and sing and we would have a meeting.
Momma told me when I was little that they had a big stump out back, and Rabbit had a hatchet and the old hatchet was dull. Momma said I put my big toe up there for Rabbit to cut my toe off…and he hit my toe and the old thing was dull, but it just bruised the top of my toe. I got tickled about that when she told me later.
When Christmas come we would get an orange and an apple and we’d get chocolate crème drops and some orange slice drops and maybe a few nuts…it would be divided out between us. And Momma would be in the kitchen and she would take an iron skillet…I don’t know how she did it..but she’d make these good cakes. She’d made a banana cake in that skillet, and a pineapple cake, and chocolate, she’d cook chocolate in that skillet and drizzle it over these cakes. She would take a big old bowl of Jello and put the fruit in it and we had an old barrel around there by the side of the house that stayed full of water and it would be froze and it would be real cold outside. That’s where she put her milk, around there, and kept it. She’s take that big bowl of Jello around there and set it there and the next day would be Christmas and it would be ready.
Back when we was little you didn’t see a lot of toys and Christmas candy and stuff sitting out the year ‘round. After Thanksgiving or the first of December, or in December, people would start setting the dolls and wagons and things out then. It wasn’t toys out the year round like it is now, to tempt kids.
Whenever Maggie and Casie first married they stayed with us for a while and Maggie worked at the shirt factory and Casie was wounded, and Momma used to help him put his shirts on because he had to carry his arm up in a sling ‘til he got well and they got a place down in Old Eddyville and moved down there and we would go down there and see them.
One night Maggie and Casie took me to the movies with them—I never will forget—and me and Maggie just loved the movie and we come out and we was laughing about the movie and Casie said, “Well, what about old Bugs Bunny?” And me and Maggie got to laughing because Casie really loved the cartoon about Bugs Bunny.
One day when they come up and got me and we went to Princeton to the theater up there and the movie was “Across the Wide Missouri,” I still remember that—one Sunday afternoon.
Lots of times in the winter on a Sunday afternoon, it wasn’t anything to do, and the Robertson girls would come around and maybe Momma would have the stuff and we could make some fudge. We got books and we’d have magazines, like from the church. They would be dated at the top and the program for that night we would read and study that and learn our Bible verses and then that night when we would go back to church, why…we would know our verses and what the teacher was going to talk about. I would bring home books to read, especially for the weekend, and I remember one that I checked out of the old Eddyville liberry at the school and it was “The Trail of the Lonesome Pine” and I’m thinkin’ about going out Eddyville one day and seeing if I can find that and read it.
One time it came a big old snow and oh, it was so cold. And, uh, real deep one and here come Maggie home and she had this big old box. And in this box she had me a navy blue snow suit and a cap and mittens—you wore mittens mostly back then. And I remember putting that on and my shoes and socks and I didn’t get cold and was tickled over that snow suit.
People would come around the houses selling stuff and a Watkins man came around selling all these flavors and Momma would buy these boxes of pie filling mix and she would make pies, and that would be a treat.
And then there was these other people would come around and they would have these puzzle boards that you punch out and they had all these different kinds of candy—I have never seen candy like that these days that had a really good taste, and you could win those candy bars.
Out past Old Eddyville was a skating rink and some of us girls on Pea Ridge would get together—I think it was me and Janice Carol and Shirley Bell—and Jessie would take us out there. And Jessie would be with some girl and he’d go off with whoever he was with and I skated some but never learned to skate good. And he’d let us stay until the place closed and come get us. It was fun to go and watch people skate and listen to the music, and see people that we knew. We talked to other boys and girls we knew.
We used to have a place in Old Eddyville called “The Turnaround” and it was an old building leaning up against a tree and they said if that tree was ever cut the building would fall into a ditch. Us girls would go in there—it was a forbidden place to go that us girls weren’t supposed to go to—and the Robertson girls never would go, but me and Juanita Dunning and Wanda Sue Marshall and Janice Carol Marshall and Shirley Bell would go and we’d go there in the back and get up on the floor and dance to the music. They just had a big old wide floor back there and booths and they played the juke box and dance and have a good time. They said a lot of bad stuff went on there, but we were never there at night. They said bootlegging went on there but we never saw that.
Daddy went over to Camp Breckinridge to work for a while and he didn’t get to come home every weekend. But one time he came home on the weekend and I’ll never forget he had a whole stalk of bananas. And I remember the ice man would come and Momma would get ice and she would take the blocks of ice and roll it in wool blankets. She told us whenever we wanted ice to unroll it and chop off some with the ice pick, but to roll it back up good so it wouldn’t melt. The ice man would come by and a block of ice was 15 or 20 cents. We always looked forward to him coming by because it meant we would have cold water to drink—or sometimes Momma made Kool Aid for us. And the Kool Aid back then was in big old brown packages that looked like a paper sack and it was bigger than the envelopes are today and cost just a penny.
Whenever Daddy would come from over at Camp Breckinridge after working he would have more money than he ever had and he would send down to Old Eddyville to get ice cream and these ice cream cups whenever you took the lid off they had a famous movie star on them. We kept them for ever so long and I wish I had kept all mine. The cups would be down in a box, like vanilla ice cream covered in chocolate and it was a lot better than the ice cream you get today.
Whenever watermelon and cantaloupes and tomatoes and things come in the Robertsons out the road sold stuff like that. And this time of year me and Momma would make several trips and buy whatever they had and take it home and that would be a treat.
Daddy raised chickens and on Sunday I’d go into the kitchen after getting ready for church and see Daddy with a dish pan of hot water and he had already wrung a couple of old chickens’ heads off and I knew after church Momma would have fried chicken ready.
I had a momma and daddy that loved me but my mother was strict, and my mother would make me mind. And I don’t ever remember my daddy whipping me, but I remember one time I got into a fuss with a girl and she was out on the road and I patted my tail at her and there was some men working the road and they seen me, and I remember Momma getting a belt and whacking me all over the house and it didn’t feel very good.
I had an Uncle Charlie and Aunt Maude and across from our old house and down the hill is where they lived, and me and Momma would go down there and Aunt Maude would have dinner and we’d stay with her and spend the evening. And Uncle Charlie drank a lot and he told all of them that there was a monkey in the house that night. He kept going on about there being this monkey and everybody laughed at him. The railroad tracks were there close to the house, and come to find out the circus was coming through and a little old monkey had gotta loose and they found it up there somewhere.
I remember one time me and Shirley Bell would go out in the woods and dig May apple root, and we’d put it in these big—what we called toe sacks—and we’d bring it in the house and wash it and dry it and we ended up getting four dollars and something a piece for it, and we had dug for ever so long.
I kept a bicycle just about all the time and when I was little I learned how to ride. One day the old thing—it looked like it came out of a junk pile—and the things down there that you put your feet on didn’t even have any rubber on them. Well, I rode it down the road and had a wreck and skinned myself all up and the tire was flat. Willie said, “Didn’t you see that tire was flat?” And I smarted off and said it was only flat on the bottom, and he picked up a handful of rocks and rocked me all around the house, but I had long legs and could outrun my brothers.
Late one afternoon Russell Robertson was working late and when they got to the ferry down at town and they run off into the river and Russell and some of the guys drowned. I stayed with Dolly at night for ever so long, and she came and stayed with us, and she was so good to me and so lonesome for Russell. We would sit and talk for ever so long. Sometimes she wouldn’t want to be alone and she’d come stay with us. One day she came and told us she was going to close up the house and go to Missouri where her brother was and she met a guy out there and married him and we didn’t see her anymore.
Sometimes in the summer my uncle Johnny would come up and get Momma and her clothes and go down to their house—they lived down there by Bob Boyd’s and Momma would do our clothes and their clothes too. I’d go down there and stay all day with Momma and Uncle Sidney Scott and Aunt Ruby lived nearby and they had their three boys—Bobby, Jimmy and Billy and Billy had polio and they fixed Billy a long pool and after he had his treatments they’d let us get in the water and play and that was a fun thing to do. When Momma was doing their clothes I’d walk from school to eat there and it helped when I didn’t have money for food in the lunchroom.
Daddy always had cows so we would have milk and Momma would get snow and take vanilla and milk and make snow cream. Oh, it was so good. And the boys in the winter would have boxes outside with food in it and they would have string run to the house and under the window pane and they would attract birds and jerk on that string to see how many birds they could catch in the daytime. They needed a life.
When I was little Valentine’s Day at school was a big day. Momma would buy packages with a lot of cards in them and I would give a lot and I’d get a lot of Valentine’s too, and sometimes they would have candy in them and that’s when they were really something. A sucker or something stuck in it.
When I was 12 years old they had a revival at the Baptist Church—that where I always went to church—and daddy went with me and me and him both went down and we was saved and I remember my dress, Momma had made me the prettiest green and flowerdy dress. And me and Daddy was baptized together and I remember that was something nice me and Daddy got to do together. I think of that now that he’s gone.
Julia Murray was a nearby woman and me and Momma would go around there, and she churned her milk and she would have this butter and buttermilk. Oh it was so good, and she was a good woman to be with and talk with.
And there was a Miss Polk at the post office and I’d always go there and she was also my Sunday school teacher. I can see her in my mind just like it was yesterday. She always had a smiling face and was such a good woman. You remember people like that.
Whenever Rabbit got his driver’s license he had an old Model A and it had blinds in the back that you could pull down and he would take all us kids and girls out driving, and we had fun in that old car. And on rainy days it would be settin’ there in the driveway and I’d go out there and pull those shades down and take a nap in there with that rain on the roof. It’d be in the fall and rainy and cool. It had velvet all in it.
I remember we had a big old brown dog—we called him Brownie—and it would go to Eddyville just like we did, just take off and go. And everybody in Eddyville loved that dog. Whenever he got finished visiting he always came home.
I was in the fifth grade, Rabbit was in the sixth and we was in a Stephen Foster play. And Rabbit and Nelson Forsythe they fixed them up like black guys and they sang and everybody said they did a good job. I remember my teachers taking this rims out of tubs and tying them together and putting an evening gown on me and put those hoops under my gown and tied them around and my dress stood out like back in Stephen Foster’s times. I remember my teacher telling me how good I looked. Her name was Miss Childress and she was a smart and talented woman. She decorated the stage and had it so pretty. She made all these roses out of crepe paper—all different colors. I remember going on the stage and being dressed up and all the people. But I don’t remember how I got there or got home.
In 7th grade I was in glee club and my aunt lived not far from the school and when I was in something at school I’d go stay with my aunt, or if there was a ball game I wanted to go to at night. There was no way you could be afraid at night because there would be all these people on the streets that you knew.
And they would have these fall festivals and I would go and really liked that, especially the fish pond with people behind the curtains. You just put the stick over in the pond and someone would say “Boy or girl?” and you had paid your money and then they put you something on the pole, and sometimes you’d get a nice pin or bracelet—really nice things that had been donated to the school. They’d have a cake walk and different games you could play and it just a fun thing, plus you could buy food.
The draft board sent Louie his papers and told him where he was to report to, and Maggie came home so Momma cooked supper and we all ate and sat around and talked. Maggie was all tore up because Louie was leaving and she had been crying. It was real dark out because back then people didn’t have as many electric lights as they do now. And Maggie walked outside and when she did she walked kindly up on the bank in front of the house and this man reached out to grab her. She thought it was her brother, Dewie, so she said, “I guess you thought you were going to scare me, didn’t you?” and came on back in the house. But when she got back in the house everyone was in the house already and she almost fainted. Daddy grabbed a gun and all the boys ran out and looked and looked but whoever it was had already taken off. They never did know who the man was.
Momma was scared of storms and whenever we was little she would wake us all up and make us stay awake until the storm passed, when if she had just let us sleep we never woulda known a thing about it. And Daddy was always scared and one night Dewie took chunks of wood and threw it out the window, so Daddy ran out and started shooting the gun. One night he heard a noise and shot through the screen and killed the cat. I believe he would have shot anybody that tried to come in that front door.
Willie and Louie came home from service. Daddy and Louie and all of ‘em went to town and they got drunk. Daddy had a long army coat on and was dressed like a soldier. The cops came to arrest Daddy and he told the police, “Let’s get down to brass tacks.” And for the rest of his life we would tell him, “Let’s get down to brass tacks” to poke fun of him. He never lived that down.
One night they had a riot down at the prison and boy it was scary. My uncle had married this woman named Margaret, and they lived with her mother and daddy. They lived in a big nice house down there in Eddyville. And the prisoners was holding her daddy. Well, they killed her daddy and it was really a mess at that prison. They had to call in people and it was a scary situation for a while. And I remember when prisoners would escape from time to time it was scary, they would shut down things on Pea Ridge and in Eddyville. Everyone pretty much stayed in with loaded guns.
When I was really small I remember my uncle, Billy Marshall, lived up the road and his wife died and he would come down there and he’d be drinking and he’d say things like, “Uncle Billy has really got the money,” and he’d pull out two billfolds and there was never anything in them. But we all loved Uncle Billy and he came down and put Daddy’s chimney in and I guess those bricks are still there because he really did a good job. Then later for some reason he went down to Old Eddyville to live. His daughter Patsy and I would play together. And we’d fix playhouses and I had tin dishes, and I don’t know where I got those. We’d take a broom and sweep dust to make a room. Pea Ridge was so dusty.
But speaking of dust on Pea Ridge, back then I didn’t know what a lawn mower was. People didn’t mow their yards back in our time. It was just full of dust and when it rained the yards would be just as muddy. And I remember Daddy putting up these big poles and putting ropes in them so we had swings. Kids came from all over and swung in them swings. It was a big thing back then.
Patsy had a uncle named Harlan Marshall and he lived in Evansville, Indiana, and he would come down and stay the weekend with them and he could play a guitar and sing. People would gather to hear him sing and play. I loved Patsy. She was a pretty girl and we went to movies together. For some reason they moved to Dover, Tennessee.
After the Marshalls moved the Rameys moved in and they had a girl named Loretta that I played with. They had two other children too. They moved to Old Eddyville too. Then Shirley Bell moved in and she became my friend. Old Miss Bell made me a white cake with white frosting for my 16th birthday and I’ll never forget how good that cake was.
In the summer we would dig holes and play washers. If we got in a fuss Momma would take our toys away and make us quit. We loved horse shoes, too.
We had some characters that lived on Pea Ridge. Fred Forsythe would walk down the road singing “Lovesick Blues” and he could really sing. There was another man that was always whistling and Miss Forsythe would go by just talking and you’d think there was someone with her. She talked both ways the entire trip.
In the summer Daddy would whitewash the house and then they’d whitewash the trees up so far and I don’t know why they did it because it wasn’t long before the rain washed it off. It did look good when it was first done.
Lonzo and Dolly Robertson and the girls lived nearby. We went over there and on the knoll ate buck berries. Across the road was Uncle Jake. In the spring their girl Nanny would come home from Chicago with her son, Ronnie. Me and Ronnie played together and went to the movies with them. Nanny was so pretty and dressed like Chicago women. Pretty red hair with crepe dresses. She walked all the way down the hill to the movies in high hills—I don’t know how she did it.
(Note: I have no idea how my mother could remember all of the following, but I’m including it just as a way of documenting where everyone lived on Pea Ridge and Old Eddyville. I am quite certain I didn’t spell or even hear everyone’s name correctly, so forgive me any mistakes.–Wade Kingston)
Going on down the road, recalling the people that lived over there, down at Martha and Jake’s on the right was Elwood Robertson and his mother and daddy. He was living there and taking care of them. And then you walked past their house was Jack Robinson and he lived by himself. Then Gathan Murray and Julia, his wife. Then Willie Murray and his mother. Across from Willie Murray and his mother was Alec Robertson and on past Alec’s on the left was the Marshalls, Miss Beulah and they had a bunch of boys and they was good boys. Then you went on down the hill and there was a black lady—I can’t think of her name but Maggie thought a lot of her—and I remember when she died they let me come in and see her in her coffin and she was dressed so nice.
Down from her was Lillian and Frank, the black people I sold my berries to that I liked, then next to them was the Isons and down from them was Mammy and Pappy in a house. You went on down the hill and when you got to the concrete walks on the right was Dr. Landers, our dentist. On the left was the Martins, then the Pendergrasts, then the Eddyville Baptist Church where I went to church and then across from it was the Harolds. Then the ministers house, then the McDonalds, then a big house on the end of the street were the Martins in a big house, next to the Rice’s. When you crossed the street were the Rameys and the Wheeler’s and their girl, Elaine. Down the street was Billy and Sidney Lester and they lived real close to the sidewalk. Past the court house was the Grisham Brothers Grocery then the post office, then the ice cream place, Richard Jenkins’ place. I liked his ice cream and cold drinks.
There was an alley that went down then there was Rudolph Brothers, and in between there was Dr. Moseley’s big house and office. Then Thomas Hanberry had a restaurant there, then the Towne’s had a grocery and I.B. Hill had a grocery next to that, and on the end was the pool hall. Around from the pool hall Bill Wells had a filling station and across from that was a DX station. And then there was the road that went down to the ferry that took you over to between the rivers. Down behind one of the buildings that Russell Robertson and Charlie Robertson had and they would barbecue down there and you could go down there and buy it and it was really good.
Then you come up and there was the old hotel and you could go in that old hotel that belonged to Miss Childress our schoolteacher. Next to it was another restaurant where you could get hamburgers and cold drinks. Then there was the barber shop and next door to it was Miss Tanners who had a dry goods store. Then up from that at one time they had a bowling alley. Then up the street Rudolph Morgan had a place where he kept appliances and things. Past that was the newspaper office, and up from that was the Bank of Lyon County. Then there was a vacant area where you could walk down to the dam, then Miss Ocie Prince’s dry goods, then the movie theater.
If you were down in Old Eddyville and you needed to go to the bathroom they kept the courthouse open during the day. You went up these steps and at the top was the facilities.
We had these flowers that were so pretty, like wild violets and we would go out and pick them and Sweet Williams and blood root or just anything like Jack in the Pulpit and make bouquets. Momma loved flowers so.”
Note: This is where the tape ended.